There is one woman in my maternal line whose story haunts me. Mary Ann Armstrong Parisher, born in 1835 in Tyrrell County, North Carolina to parents William Graham Armstrong and his wife Mariah, my great great grandmother, appears in a picture given to me by a Parisher family researcher to be biracial or tri-racial.
There are several reasons why her appearance and unknown racial identity are of special interest to me:
1. Her father, William G. Armstrong, and his father, Holloway Armstrong, were both slave holders.
2. A various times throughout Mary Ann's life, there were "free colored" members of Armstrong households. In the 1850 and 1860 Tyrrell County, NC census rolls (and earlier) we find people with the surnames Hill, Bryan and Rousom in the households of Mary Ann's father, her grandfather, Holloway Armstrong, Charlotte (his widow), and other Armstrong kin (Jones D. Armstrong, and Bennett Armstrong.) Sometimes, as in the case of Micajah Rousom, a member of Mary Ann's household when she was a girl, they were apprenticed children.
3. Members of those three families living in Armstrong households are free persons of color identified in census records as black or mulatto. Those surnames are also associated with Native families of Tyrrell County. It seems likely that the Hills, Bryans and Rousoms who lived with the Armstrongs were not only biracial, but tri-racial. (Alternate spellings: Bryant, Rowsom, Rowsome)
4. Mary Ann's mother, Mariah, had both the maiden and surname Armstrong. I have not yet been able to find a record of Mariah's parents.
5. Which brings me to a question that I'm hoping my trip Down Home might answer: were the Hills, Bryans and Rousoms, who were related to each other, also related to the Armstrongs?